Copyright Infringement in Films


Copyright, Trademark, and Intellectual Property for Filmmakers


Lesson Info

Copyright Infringement in Films

Okay, so now I want to talk about another very important topic which is copyright infringement in film as filmmakers there's a lot of stuff that goes in front of your camera right? It could be something as simple as aa cup with a logo on it right? It could be, you know, a movie playing in the background or song right that's heard there are a lot of things that can go in front of your camera that are copyrighted or trademarked intellectual property and so how do you make sure that you're not infringing on other people's work when you're creating films so that's what we're going to dive into right now so first let's talk about fair use and what would constitute fair you so fair uses a doctrine where you are allowed to use other people's videos or, you know, content in a specific set of circumstances so that would include before criticism commentary, news reporting teaching scholarship research those air the different you know purposes you can use other people's copyrighted materials for ...

without infringing on their copyright. Okay, likewise, this is context in which other people could use your work without it being considered copyright infringement. Okay, so you know an example of that would be like news reporting, right? If we see something on the news about a particular company and their logo appears, you know in that video that's fair use because they're, you know, reporting the news and that's one of the categories which you can use it in another would be, you know, criticism or commentary. So maybe you show a video of president obama giving a speech because you want to share your criticism or commentary of the speech, or how he's delivered it or whatever, so that might be another cat, another situation that would be considered fair use. But for the most part, as a filmmaker, you don't want to just rely on fair use because it's hard to know for sure it's sort of wishy washy, okay it's not super black and white, so it may be hard for you to know what's fair used and what's not, and you don't wantto be hauled into court to find out, and unfortunately, that's the only way to know for sure whether something is fair used or not. This is a doctrine that the courts will apply if there's a copyright right infringement case in front of them. And so your defense would be that it's fair use. You don't want to be in a situation where you're defending yourself in court, so we're going to talk about steps you can take to prevent, you know, copyright infringement and not just rely on fair use. So these are some of the different things factors that the courts will look at to determine if something is fair use or not if a particular uses fair use or not so they include the purpose and character of the use um you know again it is the purpose to surpass off the work is your own or is the purpose to add commentary or criticism to it or even parity the work is another category of fair use um the nature of the copyrighted work the amount and substantiality of the borrowed portions s o if you're taking a whole entire motion picture and you know showing it you know on your website for example that's probably not fair used however, if you showed a small clip and you know gave your commentary for example if you are a you know movie critic that might be considered fair use but again sort of wishy washy you don't want to rely on it and then the effect of the eu's upon the potential market or the value of the work okay, so that's another you know example where if someone is passing off the work is their own or if it's a situation where you're preventing the copyright owner from generating revenue from it it's definitely probably not fair used so just keep that in mind so again this is sort of a wishy washy doctrine and not something that you want toe you know, base your business off of um it's important to understand what it is but it's also important to not totally rely on it so how do you avoid copyright infringement in your films if their use is not sufficient? So what I recommend is that as a filmmaker you always get permission for the appearance of logos, photos, music, books and any other protected copyrighted material that isn't owned by you that appears in your films and so in copyright permission is known as clearance now I know that you're probably thinking that this is a really overwhelming task, right? This is too much work tio try to get clearance for every single thing so you're just going toe create your films and hope for the best no, we're not going to do that okay that's the fast track to dealing with legal issues so I'm going to show you some steps to take actually a step by step process for getting clearance getting permission for all the difference logo's photos, music, et cetera all the copyrighted materials that might appear in front of your camera in your films proper clearance is important to avoid a copyright infringement claim and a lot of times if you're getting insurance which is often required depending on the locale, the municipality that you're filming and sometimes you have to get a permit from you know the you know new york movie office whenever I forget the department department of film, I think it's called, so that would be one example. Or, you know, depending on the locale aa lot of times you have to get a permit from the state or from the town, and they will require you to have insurance before they will give you a permit. And you're not going to get insurance unless you have proper clearance for everything that's going to appear in your film. And so that means getting releases like we talked about participant release for everybody that appears in front of the video, so that would be one piece, but then also getting clearance for all the copyrighted material or trademark material that appears in the film. So this is the step by step process to do that act up. One would be determined the necessary clearances that you need, right? So at this stage of the game, you are going to look at your script and review all the third party content that's going to appear in the film and you want to do this four to six weeks out from filming. Ok, you want to give yourself enough time to go through the clearance process and get permission from everyone? This is not something that you want to do in post production because then you're in a situation where you've got great footage but it includes some copyrighted material and if you didn't get permission from it now you're editing out great stuff that you can no longer use because you didn't go through this step and give yourself enough time so make sure you give yourself enough time I would say two weeks is the absolute minimum before two six weeks is ideal prior to filming to get clearances for everything that's going to be included in the film so you want a list any in all trademarks you know logos, company names if you know you've you've probably seen videos where there's a laptop and it's obviously a mac laptop and the apple logo might be appearing on the back of the laptop and there's a sticker over it because they don't want the logo to appear because they didn't get clearance from apple you know, eh? So those are some ways to go around it to exclude company names, but if you can get permission and it makes sense to get permission is part of your film, then then do that. So for stock footage, you need obviously a license to use that especially make sure that the license you actually have to read it so make sure you can use it in the context that you'll be using in the film, music is another one there's some, um, you know, companies where you can, you know, grab music that you can license and used in different videos or in different context, make sure you're reading the terms and conditions and that you can use it in a commercial setting if you plan to sell this video in any way, okay, books upon which the film may be based, or even that appear, you know, in the film, if you've got someone reading from a particular book or reading a poem in front of the camera, then you'd need a clearance for that and photos and artwork that's another big thing that tends to appear, you know, you might have some artwork, you know, hanging behind the person in front of the video. If you do that, you need to get clearance from the artist are, you know, whoever owns the copyright to that artwork and then even distinct settings that may appear in your films. So, you know, let's say if it's a hotel and they have a certain type of brand on their certain types of colors and logos that appear in the hotel room and you're filming there, if the stuff that there is sort of identifying that hotel, then you need to get clearance for that particular setting. So that's, step one is determined the necessary clearances you need. So you're just going to create a list of here's all the clearances that I need to get. All right, then here are some ways that you can do it doesn't have to be super hard or expensive. Ok, this is totally doable for you. So step two is contact the copyright holders directly. And there are some companies that can help you do that. There's a service called amg music clearance, which you can find a clearance dot com that's a great way to get clearance for sound recordings. And, you know, they have a step by step process right on their web site where they tell you, you know how to go about getting it. And it's, really? Just finding out who the copyright holder is getting the correct contact information and then setting them a letter. They will also assist you with this process so they will actually find the copy the contact information for the copyright holder. And they will also provide you with a letter template to send to request clearance and that's fifty bucks for the first one. Anything. They turned twenty five dollars after that, so let's say you had ten, you know? Ten different sound recordings in your film that you need to get clearance for it's not gonna cost you a lot of money, writes a couple hundred bucks, but then you know you're good to go to use this and you have insurance to cover yourself for the film a cz well, so then that's music another one you can use this copyright clearance center is another website copyright dot com, where you can actually by an annual license for a whole different array of copyrighted material. Lots of different publications are included eso that's one option if you're creating lots of videos and that makes sense because you've got a lot of copyrighted material that you want to appear in your videos also, you could just buy a license individually and again. This is not something that super expensive they can help you find the right contact information for the copyright holder and request permission on. Do you know you want to give it enough time so you have a couple of weeks to hear back from them and they usually do respond. One thing that's also recommended to is that you offer them some nominal fees, so you let them know hey, I don't have a budget, this is an independent film, I'm a small, you know, film studio and I don't have a budget for rights and clearances, however I want tio acknowledge the value of your copyright and you're content and therefore provide you with either fifty dollars up to one hundred dollars for, you know the for the license to use this work. So it's a way for you to show the copyright holder that you value their work, even if you don't have a huge budget and believe it or not, that often works. Okay, so this doesn't have to be super expensive. You can comply with the law, you just have to give yourself time and have a system. Like I said, the information you'll need to provide well depend on the material that you're getting clearance for. If you're dealing with, like a brand for example, then you'd want to just contact the company. Usually they have a legal department. It might be in their terms and conditions on their website, or just, you know, in their contact info. But usually if you make these requests a lot of times, they are granted as long as it's not sort of ah, sleazy context or anything like that. So you might want to show them ok, here's, how I want to use the work or here's how I wanna think this sound recording teo, you know this video, you want to show them context? Make it very clear you know what you're using it for. And then, of course, you know, provide your contact information. Offer a token amount. That's. How you go about getting the clearance for your before the cooperated content in your videos.

Class Description

It’s one thing to know terms like “copyright infringement” or “intellectual property” – understanding and applying those concepts as a filmmaker can be much more challenging. Join Rachel Rodgers to learn everything you need to know to become your own best advocate.

In this class, you’ll learn when and why you need signed releases. You’ll also learn how to create client service agreements that protect your best interests. Rachel will also help you troubleshoot common copyright infringement issues filmmakers often face. Documentary filmmaker Eric Proux will join the conversation to share his been-there-done-that expertise.

No matter what type of films you make, this class will give you the skills and confidence to both defend and profit from your unique creations.